There is a great tradition over the centuries of highly talented portraitists from overseas bringing their own distinctive vision to the depiclion of the upper echelons of British society. Sometimes it takes a foreigner's eye to capture and glamorise an essentially British 'look'. One thinks of Van Dyck and Lely from Flanders, or more recently of Sargent from America and de Laszlo from Hungary. Sergei Pavlenko belongs to that tradition.

He arrived in this country from his native Russia in 1989, having graduated the year before from the Repin Academy ot Arts where he studied under Boris Ugarov, President of the Academy of Fine Arts of the USSR. Initially he lectured at the Glasgow School of Art, but soon established a reputation as a portraitist which has grown enormously in the years since. His sitters have included H.M. The Queen, the Duke and Duchess of Marlborough, Earl Verulam and his family, Earl Dalhousie, Ernst Hanover, Lord Airlie, Lord Bonham-Carter, the Senior Partners of Cazenove and many others throughout Europe and America.

His style is essentially painterly, with a lot of flickering highlights that are handled with great assurance and sensitivity. He manages to capture the personality and idiosyncrasies of each character and the atmospheric interiors in which many of his sitters are set are important components in his success. He has a particular gift for the depiction of the powerful, the clever, the elegant, and the rich. Many of his subjects fall naturally into those categories. Those that don't are even more flattered to be treated as if they did. This was a fact recognised by Van Dyck, Sargent and de Laszlo: It is one of Pavlenko's achievements to have understood it too.

Philip Hook
Senior Director. Impressionist and Modern Paintings
Sotheby's. London